Mary Johnson creates beautiful and complex finishes for her Faux Frosting clients, but they may never guess that Mary herself is just as complex as those finishes.
One can understand how a degree in Fine Art would influence her career as a faux finish specialist, but Mary also has a degree in Psychology. “I believe my background in psychology is really helpful in dealing with clients – reading the nuances behind what they say,” Mary explains. She gets to know her clients’ preferences – such as one who who loved giraffes. “When I did the sample board in the Pompeii Crackle, I was thinking about her powder room with a giraffe theme,” Mary says.
A client living in a home on a lake wanted to bring the red, gold and yellow Meditteranean colors into a more “water” type environment. The photograph of the blended colors over the mantle shows Mary’s skill at color blending.
Describing herself as an artist from her youth, Mary spent a number of years buying and renovating homes and apartment complexes. The interiors of those spaces were somewhat secondary to turning a profit. Mary’s full time career at Mutual of Omaha was augmented by those purchases, and it was great training.
After meeting and marrying her husband, Kyle – the couple had an opportunity to move to Japan, where Mary studied the Japanese language and learned calligraphy. Soon she had the opportunity to live in Shanghai, China. That calligraphy training gave her the steady hand to accomplish the fine detailing on the cabinets shown, which were finished with a glaze, and detailed with a paint brush.
“There is a great learning culture in China,” Mary says. “Many people lump China and Japan together, but they are very different when you live there. The gardens of Japan are so very beautiful, in Tokyo they have amazing floors, countertops and walls of stone.” Mary brought back more than souvenirs when she and Kyle moved back 3 years ago. “I decided to pursue my dream and started as an assistant to a painter, learning how to bid jobs.”
“One of my first clients was a builder, Terry Ficnec, who had a home on the ‘Street of Dreams’ house walk. I finished one of the interiors in the home, and Terry allowed me to put my cards out -- I went through over 1,000 cards during the time the home was on display!” The Haney home was on the Street of Dreams, and was unoccupied when Mary was given the wallpaper samples and told “Do your magic” and the ceiling finish is pictured.
Deciding to go on her own was the next step, and she came to the Chicago Institute of Fine Finishes to take one of Kathy Carroll’s classes. “She – as a teacher – encourages you to have a lifetime relationship with her, and she can hold your hand in some ways as you build a great portfolio,” Mary explains.
Mary notes, “Its not just painting on a wall – it’s a business,” Mary’s clients would agree that it’s a business made beautiful by Mary’s artistic talents.